In an effort to simplify reasons for change not happening fast enough in regard to technology in education, we often point fingers at the obvious and go no further in our exploration of the problem. Assigning blame and not solutions is counterproductive. In as far as Technology not being used ubiquitously in schools, this certainly is the case. It is easy to point the finger at educators and say that they are not a welcoming audience for this 21st Century, way-of-the-world medium. It is true that educators make the final decision as to how involved they, or their students, will be in engaging technology in both teaching and learning. I would hope that these decisions are not made without some due consideration.
To say that educators refuse to accept or learn technology is too simple a statement and in most cases misleading. The argument that really gets me is that many educators are too old to get it. We need to replace the old guard with new blood. Educators by nature are sharing and nurturing individuals regardless of their age. Teaching and learning are central to everything they do. If educators are not embracing technology there must be reasons. If we can identify the reasons, and address them, we may take a major step in the right direction to improve education. Yes, I did say improve. At this point in time, the deficiency has been established by the sheer numbers of people who have voiced their concern that our education system is not producing what it is that society expects. Of course that expectation is another topic. What is that expectation that society demands as THE educational outcome, or goal?
In the past, lack of time, and lack of funds were the major excuses for educators not to engage technology. That was a topic of one of my past posts, “No Time, No Funds” http://bit.ly/87G63j. (Thanks to Shelly Terrell for inviting me to post.) Putting those aside we should discuss the other major deterrents for technology use in education.
My personal choice of leading deterrents and where we might first point a finger would be the lack of leadership on the part of the local educational leaders. The leaders would include: Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Directors, Principals, Assistant Principals, and Department Chairs. These are the people who determine the direction of a school or District. There are some examples of leaders who have embraced technology for their districts and often they are Keynote speakers at education conferences. I guess that supports the point that they are unique among educational leaders.
Teachers would be more accepting of technology if their leaders understood, used, and modeled technology use in their everyday leading tasks. Additionally, supporting and encouraging those educators who use it successfully would also make a big difference. Many leaders are quick to cite the wonders of technology when making public speeches, but that is lip-service support. When those same leaders return to their offices, many (not all) have no clue. How many IT Directors have to research, develop, and construct the PowerPoint presentations for their Superintendent to deliver at school board meetings?
Many educators see PowerPoint and email as the pinnacle of technological mastery. The attitude seems to be that, if we use e-mail and our teachers give PowerPoint presentations, our school is employing technology in education. The other extreme, acting as a deterrent, would be the district’s IT staff. I cannot say this happens in every district, but I can say that this is often the complaint that many educators express. They point the finger to the IT people as a problem. The tech people are big tech fans. Their life is tech. They know it. They love it. They can’t live without it. Some are viewed as being more of a techie than teacher, yet they need to teach tech to teachers to teach. (ya gotta love alliteration) The problem is the damned bells and whistles. Some IT people teach their PD classes as if these teachers are being trained to teach tech. They are NOT tech teachers! They have no need to know all the bells and whistles. They need to determine what tech, if any, can help them to teach their students. Can a specific tech application enable their students to learn more meaningfully? Sometimes the answer is no, it can’t. They need to be taught the ability to view tech in the context of their course. Here is the point. If they don’t get it, they won’t use it. Once they do get it, it sells itself.
If the use of technology works its way into the culture of the schools, we will not need to demand tech training for teachers. In a technology rich culture the teachers and students should be engaging technology and each other as a further step to deeper learning. Schools should develop their own tech support groups using best practices and mentoring programs for professional development. Leaders and teachers will model learning for students. Students will engage learning in the digital world in which they have grown up with the help of educators who have had to learn and adapt to that world.
I would hope that, if we can identify our problems and go beyond the finger-pointing to apply solutions, there is a chance for positive change. Without an approach to solutions however, the finger-pointing can disintegrate into a far less helpful finger display. Comments are welcomed, either thumbs up, or thumbs down.
Here is a cartoon series done in response to this blog from my friend Jeff Branzburg: http://edudemic.com/2010/06/the-7-reasons-technology-isnt-in-your-school-comic/